I think there is a big difference between high expectations and unrealistic expectations.
I worked for my previous employer for 15 years (among mergers and bank name changes). You might say I knew my job fairly well. I was the senior employee that the others came to for answers to their questions and was the one who trained new employees. I had high expectations placed upon me because of my experience and expertise. But sometimes, in life, we can have unrealistic expectations placed on us or maybe we have placed them on others.
Like the time my best friend, Chrissy and her five year old daughter, Kayla joined Jaren and I for a day at the Texas State Fair. After a long day of walking in the Texas hot sun, we stopped by a local diner to get a bite to eat. While we enjoyed our meals, the kids colored on paper and Jaren was jibber-jabbing. He used to make this screeching sound that to some, may have sounded like crying but it wasn’t. This was the way he babbled. As we were eating and chatting, a couple comes in and sits in a booth behind us. At some point, the man began complaining to his female date about us. I couldn’t hear every word, because of my hearing, but he got loud a few times. I asked Chrissy if he was talking about us. She said yes and repeated what he said. I tried to quiet Jaren down, using my “ssshhh” sounds but it didn’t work. Now mind you, Jaren was not screaming or crying. He was babbling and some of those babbles went into a higher pitched note. Then the man gets louder (so we and other patrons could hear him) and says something about having kids like that out in public. I said, “Give us a break, we’ve been at the state fair all day and the kids are tired.” Chrissy, perturb by his rudeness chimes in and says, “Single mothers deserve a night out too.” To which he responds, “Not with kids like that.” That’s when I had heard enough. I scolded, “He’s not even two years old, what’s your excuse?” The man was speechless.
It seemed the other patrons were not amused by this nameless man’s rudeness towards two mothers and their children. Even the waiter came over to apologize to us and gave us a free meal.
Another time was when we went to visit my birth son, Noah and his family. This was our first time seeing them since Noah’s birth, six years earlier. Everyone was a bit on edge. And Jaren and Noah were getting to know each other (as brothers) for the first time. The male sibling rivalry didn’t take long and began after only a day of bonding.
Noah’s family wanted to go on a bike ride. They asked me if Jaren knew how to ride a bike. I told them he did but that he was still in the learning stages. He had not entirely mastered the bike riding skills yet.
The day of the bike ride, I was somewhat uneasy. But Noah’s family promised to go slow. Now mind you, we were riding with three boys (ages 6, 8, and 14), one adult male and two adult females. Managing all these people on sidewalks, stop signs, street crossing is not an easy task, especially for the youngsters and my inexperienced bike riding son who was only eight years old at the time.
All went fairly well until the two young boys wanted to try and compete with each other. They are boys and this is what boys do, especially siblings. The two young brothers lose control and Noah’s dad gets angry, hops off his bike and growls at my son. My first born son, who is a guest in his home; my first born son, to whom everyone was aware wasn’t that good at riding or balancing a bike; my first born son, who hadn’t had the training wheels off for that long; my first born son, who’s feet couldn’t quite touch the ground on this unfamiliar handle bar brake-bike, who had previously only rode small kids bikes with one gear and peddle brakes; my first born son, who had never rode in a neighborhood or on a city street before; my first born son, who never rode with multiple bike riders, not even with me.
I heard several comments made to Jaren about him being the older brother to Noah, as if Jaren should have known better or for that matter, understood what that even meant. Of course, Jaren didn’t know how to be a big brother. He had never been a big brother in the physical or emotional sense, only in the biological sense. But biological sense does not give one experience to learn a skill. It does not allow for trial and error and guidance or disciplinary actions by the parent when necessary. And one day or even one week certainly is not sufficient time for one to learn this type of skill.
That’s what it’s like when someone has unrealistic expectations placed upon them.
Contrary to my earlier experience with the man in the restaurant, this time I withdrew completely. Internally, I was hurt and mad as hell.
The next day however, Noah’s dad seemed remorseful for his actions and adjusted the bike so Jaren’s feet could touch the ground. He took Jaren and I on bike trail ride. We rode slowly, gave Jaren some one on one instructions and guidance and as a result, Jaren did so much better. Once the expectations were realized and modified, Jaren was able to excel more easily with his bike riding skills.
A few days later, after returning home, I was quite happy during a phone conversation, when my mother asked, “Did the boys get along or did they fight like brothers?”
Looking back, I can see how even I have put unrealistic exceptions on my age appropriate son’s actions, choices or behaviors.
Have you ever had unrealistic expectations placed on you or your family? How did you respond?